City centre businesses backing campaign to save the high street amid fears of widespread closures

May 21, 2020

Nearly 200 businesses in Bath city centre – including high-profile bars and restaurants – face a bleak future unless the government raises the threshold on one of its schemes to ease the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new campaign.

Called #RaiseTheBar, the national campaign is warning that many high streets are on the brink of collapse. It is calling on the government to expand the rateable value threshold for eligible businesses to access the £25,000 grant from £51,000 to £150,000. 

It says under the current Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Grant (RHLG) scheme nearly 55,000 businesses – from pubs to shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, galleries and gyms – have been left stranded without support.

Bath Business Improvement District (BID) has joined the campaign along with a number of businesses behind some of the city’s leading hospitality operators.

The BID’s CEO Allison Herbert said: “As a partnership of local Bath-based businesses, Bath BID is pleased to join in this national campaign to support businesses who are not currently eligible for government support.”

Some 190 independent and high street shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants in the city centre – almost one in three in the area covered by the BID – are impacted by the RHLG scheme, including Bath Aqua Restaurant on Walcot Street.

The restaurant is part of the four-strong Aqua chain, which also has two outlets in Bristol and one in Portishead.

Aqua operations director Ben Smithson is right behind this campaign. He said: “Aqua and the industry face a severe crisis and unquestionably there is a collapse imminent if more is not done by government.

“Removing the rateable value threshold is one vital step to help the hospitality sector get back on their feet once lockdown is removed and business return to some sense of normality, whatever that may look like. This needs to happen.”

A ‘discretionary fund’ run by local authorities is only available to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a business rates value of up to £51,000.

Originally set up by the BID in Croydon, South London, the campaign argues that access to the £25,000 will be the difference between survival and bankruptcy for many high street businesses. 

It has already attracted support from the public and scores of MPs, including Bath MP Wera Hobhouse, pictured.

She said: “Bath and its businesses are very much focused on hospitality, tourism, retail and food and drink, all of which have been heavily impacted by the lockdown and social distancing measures. I have spoken with many local businesses about their concerns. 

“Given we are still some way from an easing of restrictions, it’s essential that the government gives businesses the support they need to weather this challenging situation. 

“I’m fully behind the #RaiseTheBar campaign which would make such a big difference to almost one in three businesses in our city centre.”

The grant, the campaign argues, will enable businesses to mitigate some of the significant cashflow challenges, including rent, that furloughing does not address. Many businesses are not in a position to take on further debt or have serious misgivings about being able to survive the recovery while servicing additional unexpected loans.

Other pressures include paying suppliers, service charges and the cost associated with re-opening such as buying new stock as well as ongoing running costs.

For more information on the #RaiseTheBar campaign, visit


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